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Remembering Robin


I felt punched in the stomach when I heard about Robin Williams.

When he came to LA in the 70’s, all of us comics had our acts – material that we’d meticulously worked on. Sure, every now and then we would try out new material, but we’d never seen anyone like Robin. He would start with a piece about Shakespeare and then, distracted by someone in the audience, would zoom off in a new direction, bouncing off the lightning of ideas in his brain, firing and never misfiring.


At the time I was doing a magic act; the stage was pre-set before I began. Robin went on before I did, picking up my props and improvising with then. My magic act was ruined, but Robin taught me to let go and flow with the moment. I’ve always been grateful to him for that.

Robin’s energy was uncontainable. When he was starting out, a typical night for him was performing at the Comedy Store, driving an hour to Newport Beach to perform at the Laff Stop, driving back late at night to do a show at the Hollywood Improv and finishing at the Comedy Store with the Comedy Store Improv Players.

His new manager, Jack Rollins, organized a showcase in the small room at the Comedy Store. The audience was filled with the who’s who of Hollywood. When comics are being judged by power players, we don’t take chances. We stick to our ‘A’ material. But not Robin. I stood in the back next to Jack Rollins, watching Robin spin comedy spontaneously, scoring laughs and admiration with his in-the-moment observations and impersonations. His manager turned to me and said, “That man is going to be a movie star.”

Many people are shocked that someone so funny could be suffering so profoundly.  There is no comic who doesn’t understand; we have all experienced the dark side of the laughs. That’s at the heart of comedy; it’s the magic act of transforming pain into punch-lines. The good ones make it look easy.

It’s impossible for me to imagine a world without Robin. He did everything at a fast pace. Too bad that includes his ending. I need him now to help us get through this terrible loss.

2 comments:

  1. Your experiential insights , Judy, will hopefully cast some light on the tragedy AND humanity of the mental illness stigma. So many of us who lean toward the lighter side to sustain us during those debilitating mood shifts get labeled "crazy" or "looney" or "nutz." Nevertheless, it is the difference in perspective that creatives bring to the world that germinates, nurtures and sustains the culture we hold so dear, that dear, sweet and enviable out-of-the-box-ness is the same wackiness that can push loved ones over the edge.... to the point where their atypical mindset points them on this road, where the only goal is to escape the pain..... and suicide seems reasonable.
    With Jonathan Winters as his mentor, Robin Williams had a hero with quite similar talents and tribulations.
    The public may never have their satisfaction in a simple reason for this finality..... but there is his legacy of joyful humor, energy and uniqueness..... and from that, perhaps, a lesson to acknowledge, honor and appreciate the differences we find in one another, rather than insisting on banal sameness.
    Good night Captain, O' My Captain.

    ReplyDelete
  2. thank you Lindsey - beautifully written coment.

    ReplyDelete

Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.